Following the discovery that Associated Airlines may have flown the ill-fated aircraft that crashed in Lagos without a valid insurance cover, worried insurance practitioners have blamed the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the ugly incident.
According to the professionals, it was NCAA's inefficiency and poor oversight that made it possible for Associated Airlines and maybe some other airlines to operate their fleet in the country without valid insurance protection, as required of them.
They said instead of prevailing on airlines in the country to buy adequate insurance to cover their fleet as prescribed by international aviation laws, the authority went outside its jurisdiction to argue that applicable aviation insurance premium rates in the country were too high.
A seasoned insurance professional, Mr. Onyekwere Iwuagwu, said NCAA has failed Nigerians by not ensuring that airlines under its supervision get adequate insurances, particularly to cover passengers and their cargoes.
"Had NCAA performed its roles effectively and efficiently by verifying the claims of individual airlines with relevant insurance organisations, the relatives of deceased and surviving victims of the air crash would have been saved the trauma of knowing that the much anticipated insurance compensation may not be coming after all," Iwuagwu said.
Also speaking to THISDAY on condition of anonymity, a highly-rated insurance broker in the country reasoned that Associated Airlines may not have been alone in flying commercial aircraft without valid insurance.
According to him, "many other airlines in the country, particularly smaller commercial aircraft, may have been flying without valid insurance cover, particularly since the enforcement of 'no premium no cover' by the insurance regulator, National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) started in January this year".
He therefore, advised that going forward, the civil aviation authority should cross-check the validity of any insurance claims by the operators under its supervision with NAICOM or the individual operators the aviators named as their official insurer.
"Henceforth, NCAA should verify every insurance certificate that airlines present to it as proof of having a valid insurance protection for their fleet with either the insurance regulator, NAICOM, or the companies they claim have provided them the cover.
"This will stop airlines from flying their fleet of aircraft without any valid insurance cover and also ensure that deceased and surviving victims of air accidents are adequately compensated as enshrined in international aviation laws that Nigeria subscribes to," he said.
The Associated Airlines aircraft conveying the body of the former Governor of Ondo State, Chief Olusegun Agagu, his family members and government officials to Akure for burial crashed close to the aviation fuel tank farm inside the premises of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) in Mafoluku minutes after take-off.
The hopes of victims and their families were raised when some operators said the insurance industry was ready and capable of settling all the valid claims that may arise as a result of the air disaster.
However, it was later discovered that Associated Airlines may have been flying its aircraft using fake insurance certificates even as it claimed that Sema Insurance and Nigeria Reinsurance Plc (Nigeria-Re) were its insurers.
Nigeria-Re has denied the existence of any insurance contract between it and the airlines, saying such claims were not only false but made by people who do not understand the way the insurance industry is organised.
The Managing Director of Nigeria-Re, Mrs. Isioma Chukwuma, told THISDAY that her organisation was never at any time the official insurer of Associated Airlines.
She explained that her organisation, being a reinsurance company, does not transact any business with insureds or policyholders, adding that reinsurance companies insures risks taken by primary insurance companies and as such could not have had any insurance transaction with the airline.
Just like the Nigeria-Re, Africa-Re as a secondary insurer does not transact insurance businesses with individuals, corporate bodies or any other type of client. It insures risks of primary insurers only.
THISDAY investigations also confirmed that there is no insurance company named Sema Insurance on the list of companies registered by the NAICOM. THISDAY also double checked with the umbrella body for insurance broking firms in the country, the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB), where it was also confirmed the Sema Insurance was not on their list.